The Ugly American

Team America

America...FUCK YEAH!!!

I love America.

I really do.

I love its beauty, its vast landscapes, beaches, and mountains.

I love its wide variety of choices and cultures.

I love its music, its art, its movies, its toughness and its weaknesses.

I love New York City, San Francisco and New Orleans. I love Chicago and DC. Shit, I even love Baltimore, West Virginia and New Jersey!

But I have to say that after a recent two-week excursion to Italy that I am not too sure if I have that same love for Americans.

Not all Americans (of course) there are plenty of awesome ones! Like any reading this post (you, yes, YOU are totally awesome!).

I am sure you have heard the term “The Ugly American” at some point in your life. In general, yes, we are quite an ugly nation of people. When you have 300 million and counting, percentages say that not all can look like Brangelina. But what I came to learn upon said trip to Italy was that the term does not necessarily refer to an American’s looks. It’s referring to the American attitude. We are a pushy, cocky, self-centered, loud people and nowhere else does this become more apparent than when you travel abroad. And look, I am no world-traveling-snob, this was my very first trip across the pond, but it didn’t take long at all to realize just how easily an American sticks out in a city such as Florence. For one thing, Italians call it Firenze not Florence. They also call Rome “Roma.” I guess they simplified it for our sake? For another, you can usually tell an American by hearing them, in that, you HEAR them. Sure, I probably pick out the American accent easier than, say, a Swiss one, but it’s the sheer volume of how we speak that separates us from our European brethren. That is not to say there aren’t plenty of loud Europeans. Oh yes, there are quite a few of those too. I suppose it’s because our land is so big (along with our food portions, cars, and bellies) that we feel the need to make sure our speaking voices are heard. And if you are from the East Coast like me then you probably talk loud because you spend half of your conversations trying to talk over the other East Coasters you are conversing with (we tend to all speak at once).

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Just a Dream

Last night in my deep slumber I had a simple yet strange dream.  In my dream I found myself in the year 1974 at the age I am now. All in all things weren’t too bad.  Despite the fact that I had no internet or cable TV, I was able to function just fine.  Can you believe that?

It wasn’t until I wanted to listen to some in dream tunes that I realized that there was a problem.  Seeing how I was in 1974 my ipod was years away from even being a fathomable concept, I was at a loss.  In my dream I began to lament the fact that it would be decades before I could listen to some of my favorite music that is just a few clicks away in my conscious world.

Radiohead, the Black Keys, Cee-lo Green, Jackie and the Treehorns, Adele (yes, I admit it.  The sassy Brit has soul), and the like wouldn’t be recording for years to come.  What could I do? Then it hit me.  Being in 1974 didn’t mean I would have to suffer.  Not in the least bit.  In my dream I tried to remember who exactly would I want to listen to in 1974.

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Happy Birthday Uncle Bruce!

Bruce Springsteen is my uncle. Well, not real direct uncle like a sibling of one of my parents. Just a cousin that we all call “Uncle.” Or maybe my mom just used to joke about inviting “Uncle Bruce” to my birthday parties because she knew I had a possibly unhealthy obsession with Bruce Springsteen.

Being a Bruce fan is an odd place sometimes. A lot of my closest friends and band mates weren’t/aren’t Bruce fans. (I’m sure most of them, especially my cohorts here at Bums Logic, are rolling their eyes realizing it was only a matter of time before Todd used this space to idolize his Boss once again.) As popular and worldwide famous and critically acclaimed as Springsteen might be, there’s a certain uncoolness about being a Bruce fanatic. And I guess that fits the narrative of Young Bruce feeling alienated and alone and discovering through Elvis and the Beatles that rock’n’roll could not only save you, but it was your only hope.

I was turned on to Bruce Springsteen and his mighty E Street Band in the early 80’s by my sister’s college boyfriend. He had vinyl bootlegs of the legendary Winterland show as well as the one from the Agora in Cleveland, both from the Darkness on the Edge of Town tour in 1978. I taped them from his albums to my hand-labeled cassettes and was on my way.

Soon after, Born in the U.S.A. was released and “my guy” was suddenly the biggest rock star on the planet. I saw him at the Capitol Centre in Largo, MD, the month I turned 14. Perhaps that vulnerable age mixed with the power of those legendary live shows and I was doomed (blessed?) to be cemented for life as a Bruce Fan, I don’t know. But I still feel like that night I found out that there really was a circus to run away with. I’d be reminded again, by everyone from the Grateful Dead to The Roots and by Springsteen 11 more times over the years.

So Uncle Bruce turns 62 today. Which makes it seem like Bob Dylan, Neil Young, and the Stones must be in their 80s. Love him, hate him, or respect him with indifference, but may everyone be lucky enough to still have his energy when they reach that age. Or at least be saved by rock’n’roll.

It’s the End of R.E.M. and I Feel Fine

Hopefully the people who spent the day with “Everybody Hurts” on repeat have talked themselves down off the ledge and realized that R.E.M. calling it quits is a no-big-deal decision that’s probably for the best. Soon as the news broke everyone was “reporting” it by posting “R.I.P R.E.M” on Facebook and Twitter and either pretending to be sad or cracking jokes about how they thought R.E.M. broke up years ago.

Good for them for calling it quits and going out on a high note (review below). Sure, some people thought they overstayed their welcome by 10 or 15 years already. Personally I still love their first 5 albums, but never could get into their mellow mid-to-late era albums. And yes, I’m including Automatic For The People, allegedly a consensus masterpiece. Sorry, I always found it to be overrated. Most people reading this now think I’m an idiot. Oh well.

They lasted 30 years. We didn’t need them to go on and on like the Stones. So don’t be sad, just put a bow on it, put ‘em to bed, and know that you can always visit them as you remember them best. We’ll help start the healing by reprinting our reviews of their most recent album (Collapse Into Now) and the reissue of their best (Reckoning).

R.E.M. – Collapse Into Now (2011)

R.E.M.’s new album Collapse Into Now just breathes where its predecessor was trying to breathe fire. It’s nuanced, whereas Accelerate simply pushed the needle attempting to rock its way back to their early sound.

Accelerate was a fine record, and its sometimes-generic rockers are as good as some of the similar-veined material on Collapse Into Now. But the new one succeeds by acknowledging that the mid-tempo meditations (and mandolins!) are also part of the classic R.E.M. sound.

The clean mix puts the spotlight on Peter Buck, without turning everything up to 11. It combines a healthy dose of the acoustic atmospherics and mellow moments (that led them toward the sleepy missteps of their recent work) with enough energetic rockers to keep everyone awake.

Forget all the “finding their religion” puns, finally all of their sounds collapse into now.

R.E.M. – Reckoning (1984, reissue 2009)

r.e.m.’s first album was called murmur and when the second one starts you think maybe it could be called hypermumble but it’s not it’s called reckoning which is a pretty cool title i guess and it’s a really cool album. the guitars are jangly but not annoying and the melodies are catchy but this isn’t pop music this is cool college radio music from back when such a thing still existed before they started calling it alternative rock before alternative rock became so popular that by definition it was then pop. it’s still hard to hear what the singer is talking about but he mentions swallowing the ocean, a short-haired boy or girl (i’m not sure), catacombs, a camera, this season, a handshake is worthy, the tower, alone in a crowd, and during one song he just keeps repeating that he’s sorry. the one where he says "i’m sorry" is a lot of people’s favorite song from this album but i grew up in rockville, md, and went to rockville high school so of course we all thought the song called "don’t go back to rockville" was the coolest song since in some way it was possible that it might be about us even though we kinda knew that it probably wasn’t. this album came out in 1984 and ever since then every band in america and most other countries tried to sound just like this album whether they knew it or not except for all the bands that tried to make sure they didn’t sound like this album. in 2009 the people that make the records made a new version of r.e.m.’s reckoning that they cleaned up and made sound all pretty even though the spirit of the sound of this album is kinda scruffy and off the cuff to begin with it still sounded great after it was all dressed up in fancy sound quality because it was always beautiful on the inside.

Week 3 NFL Picks

There’s a few old adages in NFL wagering, like beware of road favorites or be careful betting on that one obvious easy play that everyone else loves. I’m going against both of those warnings this week.

First, the road favorite. It’s not going out on a limb to suggest that the Detroit Lions might be for real. It’s a pretty risky prospect to back that up by taking the Lions giving points on the road to a division rival. The Minnesota Vikings might be 0-2 right now, but they’re not that far removed from their run the NFC championship. But the Detroit defense will stifle Adrian Peterson just enough, and Donovan McNabb won’t be able to save them. Soon as Matthew Stafford gets a couple TD’s on the board and a sack/fumble by McNabb puts the Lions up 21-3, the crowd will be out of the game and we’ll all be wondering why Detroit wasn’t favored by more. Take the Lions -3 at Minnesota.

Now for the Joe Square Public Pick That Will Still Win: Patriots-Bills to go Over 54. I know that’s a pretty high total, and it’s already been bet up from the opening line of 51, so the whole world and their degenerate-gambler mothers love the over in this game. This is the first “really big game” in Buffalo in a long time, featuring two QB’s who sling it around against defenses that can’t really stop anyone. Too obvious, huh. Vegas knows all this so they set this total so high that maybe we should take the under? Could have a “playoff atmosphere” and the semi-shootout only gets to around 31-20 and it stays under the total? No way. 30-27 or 31-24 will push it over, and I still think this one will be more like 38-30 Pats. Take Bills-Patriots Over 54.

I also like New Orleans -3.5 at home against the Houston Texans. The Saints have battled the Packers and Bears so far while Houston has been on the JV circuit, sparring with the Manning-less Colts and the lackluster Dolphins. The Texans step up in competition this week against Drew Brees and the Saints in what will also be their first hostile environment of the year. Saints might cruise in this one, but even if it’s not a blowout, New Orleans will cover the spread easily.

Teaser of the Week: Take the Titans and tease them down from -7 to -1 at home against the Broncos by pairing it up with the Steelers, teasing them down from 10.5 to a much more manageable -4.5 at Indy. Tease Titans -1 with Steelers -4.5


Last Week: 2-2
This Season: 5-4

Just a Quick Post

I rarely wax poetic about politics on Bums Logic but for an instance as grand as the news today I will make an exception.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell died today.  That is a good thing.

The biggest example of why this is a good thing: Imagine being gay and your partner is serving in combat operations oversees when the unthinkable happens and they are  killed in action.  Under the old rules you would never be officially notified.  Ever.

If you oppose the ban being overturned, think about that for a while.

Need Cash?

I recently returned from some much needed R&R taken on the sandy beaches of the Florida gulf coast.

The trip was amazing.  The water was clear and warm while the beach was clean and not crowded in the least bit.  I got to lay around and really enjoy some time away from my work and home life.

Given that I was on vacation I went ahead and spent some money on things that I probably would usually not.  For the first time ever I rented a wave runner, which to be perfectly honest, was a little scary at times.  Zipping along at +40 MPH can make you think that should you be thrown from the vehicle, even though you are going to land on water, the shit is going to hurt.  Nevertheless, I pressed on and had a field day out there on the open water tearing it up.

On top of the wave running adventure I took in the fun past time of mini-golf.  I also spent some time in a rather large human maze which while somewhat fun I was ready to be out of that thing after about 15 minutes.  Additionally on my trip I ate well.  I am an ardent believer that the solid cornerstone of vacation travel is fantastic dining.  Without good meals on your journeys, you might as well have stayed at home.

It wasn’t until I got home that I realized that all of the fun activities I enjoyed came with a price tag.  Sure zipping around the maze on a wave runner while eating a waygu steak and cheese was the tits, it is also a little costly. Thankfully I am gainfully employed as a contributor for Bums Logic so I could easily afford my vacation luxuries without having to duck my landlord with the rent for the month.

Having the money to go on vacation is great but still, wouldn’t it be great to have some additional money to help finance my adventures? Sure a Holiday Inn is comfortable enough but aren’t the 1000 count sheets and jacuzzi tub in the Omni properties just a little more comfortable? Amirite?

So after looking at my bank balance and considering my income I thought about ways in which I could supplement my cash flow.  After a long Sunday of watching some professional football I have come up with a fail safe plan that I am willing to share with all of you.

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